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Nets end Bulls' four-game win streak

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK - Not only did the Brooklyn Nets stop a team that has had their number in recent years, but they also stopped one of the NBA's hottest teams, defeating the Chicago Bulls 96-80 on Monday night.

The loss ended a four-game winning streak by the Bulls, who entered Monday night with wins in nine of their last 10 games.

"It definitely feels good and this was a good win for us," Nets guard Deron Williams said. "We have had our troubles against the Bulls and to play the way we did tonight was great."

The Nets continued their solid play at home in 2014 and are now 12-2 at their arena since January 1. At 29-29 overall, the Nets reached the .500 mark for the first time since Nov. 5, when they were 2-2.

Williams led the Nets with 20 points while guard Joe Johnson was not far behind with 19 to pace Brooklyn's offense. Guard Shaun Livingston, who has been taking advantage of his starts, recorded 14 points.

"It means a lot," Johnson said. "We have overcome a lot this season. To be .500 at this point, hopefully we can keep climbing, keep building and try and become a better team."

The win represented the Nets' largest margin of victory over Chicago since a 100-84 win on March 16, 2005.

"This is a big win for us mentally," Nets guard Paul Pierce, who finished with 14 points, said. "The Bulls have really had our number and, to be honest, I feel like when they come play the Nets they could beat us any time."

The Nets prevented the Bulls from scoring a single point in the first 4 1/2 minutes of the third quarter, helping the Nets established a 17-point second-half lead that they would not relinquish.

"I thought we were really active," Williams said. "I thought the way we started the game kind of set the tone for us, especially defensively."

Bulls center Joakim Noah, who has become one of the best passers from the low post, was held in check all night with 10 points and one assist as the Nets forced him and his teammates outside.

"We played with a fire that we don't always play with," Pierce said. "If we can play like that for the rest of the season, we're a tough team to beat."

Chicago's defense, which was ranked second in the league in fewest points allowed entering the game, was abused most of the night by a fast-paced, aggressive Nets offense. Brooklyn's defense was more effective, holding Chicago to just 17 points in the third quarter.

Bulls guard D.J. Augustin led the Bulls with 16 points.

"I think we held onto the ball a little too long," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We didn't play our best; things can change quickly in this league. So we have to study, learn and correct."

The Nets had the Bulls defense on the ropes early with a first-quarter surge that built a 15-point lead. The Bulls had more turnovers in the game's first four minutes (four) on Monday than they had all of Sunday night against the Knicks (three). Chicago turned the ball over 28 times on the night.

"I thought to start the game we were very active on both ends," Nets head coach Jason Kidd said. "Everybody pitched in. We got our hands on a lot of balls that turned into turnovers, and that's something that we've been getting better at since the New Year."

Chicago battled back to get within three points, but a late surge put Brooklyn up eight at halftime.

"I thought we were flat tonight," Thibodeau said. "We started the game and we got in a big hole. We had to fight most of the first half. The first and the third quarters got us."

NOTES: Nets F Kevin Garnett did not play Monday night as he is nursing a back injury. ...Yahoo! Sports report that Nets C Jason Collins will sign a second, 10-day contract with the team Wednesday. Collins is the first active openly gay athlete in NBA history. ...The Nets are enjoying a recent run of good form, winning five of their last seven games. ...The Bulls entered the game with the second-best defense in the NBA, allowing an average of 92.3 points per game. Only the Indiana Pacers (91.2 ppg) allow fewer. ...The Nets are back in Brooklyn after a seven-game road trip. Their last home game was Feb. 12 against the Bobcats. ...Bulls C Joakim Noah is averaging a double-double this season -- 12.1 ppg and 11.5 rebounds per game before Monday, which is good for sixth-best in the NBA.
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